Archive for January, 2021

Watercolor Sketching in Studio Eidolons

January 28, 2021
Working in the Watercolor Sketchbooks this morning

Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Waking early with these words in my memory, I rose from my bed knowing what I wanted to do as soon as I entered my space in Studio Eidolons–sketch the solitary fly fisherman. For the moment, I am ready to lay aside plans for finished watercolor paintings and instead fill up some pages in the sketchbooks with experimental techniques. My hope is that experimentation will free me up to discover new ways and methods for rendering subjects in water media. I have always been afraid and tight when it came to inserting the human figure into my compositions. Hopefully I can break through that barrier with these new attempts.

I am sketching these from photos Sandi took of me with her phone while fishing recently in the Guadalupe River and last September when I was in the South Fork of the Rio Grande. Both locations provided an abundance of memories that visit me as I work on these this morning.

My artist friend Cindy Thomas has created a seven-minute film of me painting in Studio Eidolons and fly fishing in the Guadalupe. The rough cut has already been given to me, and watching it has been so warmly satisfying. Once the film is complete, I look forward to sharing it online for those who wish to view it. The water in the Guadalupe was clear as an aquarium, and the sunlit beauty of the setting was stunning, as was the thirty-degree temperatures.

My experience last September at South Fork, Colorado was also scintillating, to say the least. A foot of snow had fallen the day before, and as I stood in the stream, a fresh, heavy, wet snowfall doused me, and the brown trout rose with an enthusiasm I have seldom experienced on the stream. I have those photos laid out for potential sketches as well.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

What Do Artists Do All Day?

January 26, 2021
Bright Sunlight Floods Studio Eidolons

“We all need white space–which is to have time when we aren’t doing, but being,” [Penny] Zinker said, citing activities like thinking, reading, being in nature and unplugging from electronics. “That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a bit structured–we can go to a yoga class or join a hiking group” she added. “It creates structure so that we create that white space.”

Meera Jagannathan, “Here’s how to make the most of your ‘executive time’ at work”, MarketWatch

While working in the studio this morning, I had the TV tuned into a series of You-Tube documentaries: What Do Artists Do All Day? As I listened to the interviews, I wondered about giving my own account. For quite awhile I have had this notion to share on the blog my day-to-day activity in Studio Eidolons.

My routine is quite regular. The dogs are never going to let me sleep past 7:00 a.m. After feeding them, I move on to my favorite morning task–grinding beans and French-pressing New Mexico Piñon coffee. Sandi and I enjoy quiet coffee time with snuggling dogs drifting back to sleep after getting their bellies full. Over coffee, I scratch out the first lines in my daily journal, musing over what to read to set the tone for the day.

Coffee time merges into executive time, or white space time. This always involves books, my real passion. During all the years I taught, the classes began at 7:35, so there wasn’t really quality white space for morning reading then. Now with retirement in full bloom, I have the delicious option of reading the entire day if I choose, and I frequently choose. Recently, I’ve completed my reading of The River Why and Goodbye to a River. Those books have already set the stage for my next project in watercoloring. Now I am re-reading Friedrich Schiller’s series of letters: On the Aesthetic Education of Man. During my senior years, I have this compulsion to articulate my own theory of aesthetics and why I draw and paint the way I do.

Usually by mid-morning, I lay the books and journal aside and enter Studio Eidolons, my beloved creative space, named after Walt Whitman’s poem Eidolons. In the morning, light floods the windows and drafting tables in a manner I find very inviting. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been on a watercolor binge, featuring canyons and snowy evergreen trees. Today I have given to framing them all so I can get them into the gallery.

My First Sedona Watercolor, 11×14″ framed. $400

Two summers ago, we visited the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and the red rocks of Sedona. From the backyard of our rented dwelling, I looked out on this rock formation, and in the course of a single morning began twenty 8 x 10″ compositions. The one pictured above was the very first attempt. Sometime during this past year, I took it out of my stack of unfinished work and put the finishing touches on it.

Sedona Again. 11×14″ framed. $450

Same story with this one–removed from storage and completed, but not framed till this morning.

Sedona. Sold.

This painting I also completed in the past year, and I was preparing to frame it, but a dear friend from my past saw it on Instagram and purchased it. So it is gladly making its way now to its new home. Thanks, Chris!

My Sweet Studio Companion

Baby Paddington has turned out to be a loving and quiet friend in the studio. All he asks is to be near me while I work on my projects.

Snowy Evergreens. 11×14″ framed. $450
Snow Evergreens II. 11×14″ framed. $450
Snow Evergreens III. 11×14″ framed. $450
First Snowy Evergreens. Sold

A couple of weeks ago I began a series of experiments with snowy evergreens, and before I began the framing, a dear friend found one of them on Instagram and made the purchase. This one is now in his home. Thanks, Jeff! The other three paintings have been prepared for a class I’ll teach tomorrow (Wednesday, Jan. 27) at Show Me the Monet Gallery in Arlington. I am teaching Watercolor Wednesdays there, about three times a month currently. I have already booked three for February. Anyone interested in any of those three-hour sessions can find the appropriate information on my Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/davidtrippart

Reading, Writing and Decompression

After a full day of working on art in the studio, I love to decompress with further reading and reflection. As the sun approaches the horizon and the shadows lengthen, I love sitting at the drafting table and looking out across the neighborhood. Today has been another one of those sweet days.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Saturday Morning Thoughts from The Gallery at Redlands

January 16, 2021

Heraclitus attracts exegetes as an empty jampot wasps; and each new wasp discerns traces of his own favorite flavor.

Jonathan Barnes, Presocratics

Good morning from the sunny Gallery at Redlands! Every time I come back here, I am warmed by greetings from friends I haven’t seen in awhile, and last evening in the Gallery was no exception. This morning’s reading from the fragments of Heraclitus (2500 years ago) has gotten my head spinning, and just as I was second-guessing myself as to how much of my own thoughts I was reading into the writings of this ancient sage, I came across the statement posted above from Jonathan Barnes.

I will always be grateful that the seminary taught me to read Greek long ago. Lingering over fragment 80 of Heraclitus this morning spurred me to “darkening” many pages from my journal (I love Leonard Cohen’s “darkening” vs. scribbling when it comes to journaling). Heraclitus regarded the world’s dynamic as a perpetual clash of opposites. These clashes, according to Heraclitus, created harmonies the same way as happens with the bow and lyre.

They do not understand how, while differing from, it is in agreement with itself. There is a back-turning connection, like that of a bow or lyre.

Heraclitus, Fragment 51

In previous blogs, I have shared Heidegger’s philosophy of art as a strife between earth and world. “Earth”, to Heidegger, refers to the natural world as it is. “World” refers to everything the artist brings to earth when s/he attempts to create art. There emerges a struggle, because earth does not surrender willingly what it conceals. At the same time, the artist’s world does not remain unchanged during this struggle to make art. Out of the struggle, a third element, “art”, rises. Art is the result of the collision of earth and world.

Heraclitus describes the clash as one that results in harmonies. The Greek word translated “harmonies” could be rendered “construction” or “connection.” Another translator renders it “fitting together” or “attunement.” At this point, I found my imagination firing with applications to my own processes in trying to make a successful watercolor.

New work in progress in the Gallery

As I continue experimenting with 8 x 10″ compositions of evergreens in snow, the observations of Heraclitus are giving me some clarity. The collision of opposites is going on constantly, between wet and dry surface, warm vs. cool colors, contrasts of dark and light, movments between space and form, and the struggle between complementary colors.

Today I have been adjusting my colors between the complements of green and red, and feel that I have learned a great deal about how those two colors and their variations work side-by-side in these forest compositions. I’m going to continue exploring the fragments of Heraclitus to see what else I can glean about unity in diversity, harmony in conflict, etc.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Further Snow Meditations

January 11, 2021
A Second 8 x 10″ Attempt

In the pocket notebook I carried is scribbled, early among the entries for that morning: “The hard thing is to get slowed down.”

What that means in relation to my activities just then is a bit mysterious to me. Probably it means I was impatient with my own dawdling slowness, prodigious and no trouble at all to attain, and that I then grew irked with my impatience. Impatience is a city kind of emotion, harmonious with “drive” and acid-chewed, jumping stomachs, and I presume we need it if we are to hold our own on the jousting ground this contemporary world most often is.

John Graves, Goodbye to a River

Three years into retirement, I still find myself at times moving about in high gear as though I have appointments to keep. And when I do slow down, I feel internally guilty, as though I am supposed to be doing something. Yesterday’s snowfall throughout the day slowed things down, and the experience was precious. It has carried over into today, though the snow has evaporated, the sun is bright, and temperatures are rising. Still, I choose to linger in my studio and experiment with a new set of paintings. The one posted above is attempt #2 of snowy evergreens, and #3 is also in progress. Two other blank surfaces are lingering on the sidelines.

I have been dizzy with freedom since spreading out five surfaces and opting to go experimental with color combinations and techniques. My assistants have been a bottle of Richeson Mediums that I use with a toothbrush to spatter the masquing for snow effects along with a fan brush intended for acrylic painting to get the splayed effect of pine needles. Sprinkles of salt and dry bread crumbs have also worked to break up the wet washes of color spread about. I’ve also been spritzing with a fingertip sprayer manufactured by The Bottle Crew.

I have spread out an assortment of colors to get a variety of greens, beginning with Winsor Blue mixed with Transparent Yellow for one base green, then Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson for a darker green. To vary the greens, I have mixed in the following: Daniel Smith Quinacridone Gold and Quinacridone Sienna. Also touches of Winsor Red Deep and Daniel Smith Quinacridone Rose. For the dead trees in the background, I have blended all the above colors to produce a warm gray, and have also used HB and 5H pencils along with one of my recent favorites: the Blackwing Matte pencil.

Soon I shall be leaving to spend a day on the Brazos River in search of stocked rainbow trout. I’m ready to get back into the stream with a flyrod. Also, I plan to take along sketch materials for potential drawings and watercolors of that magnificent basin that carves its way across the Palo Pinto terrain. I’ve had an itch to paint cliffs topped with cedars, and that is the nearest location I can think of that offers those views.

Stay tuned for more, and thanks always for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Snowy Meditations

January 10, 2021
Watching the snow fall from the windows of Studio Eidolons

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels, to understand a proverb and the interpretation, the words of the wise and their dark sayings.

Proverbs 1:5-6, KJV

Baby Paddington has decided to nest in his bed and watch as well

It is extremely rare in north central Texas to see snow falling. Snow may have hit my neighborhood while I was away for winter holidays, but I myself have not seen the white powder in Arlington, Texas for at least five years. This morning is making up for it–I slept in till nearly 9:00 and the snow was falling heavily when I got up. Now, at 1:30 it is still coming down in huge, wet flakes. Accumulation should be minimal as the ground has not been frozen yet this winter and the temperatures are lingering in the upper 30’s. Our low forecast is set for 32; we’re not near that yet. Still, the skies are filled with white flakes, the ground is getting covered, and I am loving my coffee, fireplace, Christmas tree and adequate windows to the neighborhood.

Occasionally on Sundays, I will take out the Bible and read for awhile. This morning I focused on the opening chapters of Proverbs, bearing in mind that the Sunday talk shows are featuring a number of elected Washington officials whose only manifestations of “wisdom” appear in dodging straightforward questions of what contributed to our current demise, and what should be an appropriate response.

As stated before, my blog is not intended to be a political forum, so I will only say that my morning so far has been divided between studying and painting. As for studying, I am devoting some time to unpack the text from Proverbs, looking at some key words beneath our English translation (learning, understanding, interpretation, dark sayings). I’m fortunate still to have a copy of the Latin Vulgate and Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) and have enjoyed perusing the languages.

This painting found a home quickly

I began an ended the above painting yesterday, and by nightfall it had sold. As I had said before, I tried this composition three years ago and the picture sold before I could really study it. Now that this one is leaving, I’ve decided to lay out five more compositions of the same size (8 x 10″) so I can continue to experiment and find a way to solve my issues of snowscapes and the multiple green tints I experience when viewing cedars and various evergreens. I find a real joy in exploring this composition and hope to share good ideas in future posts as I move ahead with these.

Preparing to make five more . . .

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

A Brighter Morning

January 9, 2021
Paddington just keeps growing and stretching

Brethren preached separation from worldly pleasures, but my mother laughed at comedians, particularly Gracie Allen, who said, “My mind is so fast, sometimes I say something before I even think it.”

Garrison Keillor, That Time of Year: A Minnesota Life

This morning was brighter, filled with more color, than the past two days. Sipping coffee before the fireplace, reading more of Garrison Keillor, dog snuggled under the blanket with me–yes, a much warmer morning. Entering Studio Eidolons a few hours later, I found Baby Paddington looking not so much as a baby anymore. He seems to stretch halfway across the room now when he’s looking for something beneath the tree. We’ve decided to let the tree remain through January, since we spent so little time in the house with the Christmas decorations in place. Now we can enjoy them for a few more weeks without departure interruptions.

. . . painters must devote themselves entirely to the study of nature and try to produce pictures which are an instruction. Talks on art are almost useless. . . . Literature expresses itself by abstractions, whereas painting by means of drawing and colour gives concrete shape to sensations and perceptions.

Paul Cezanne, letter to painter friend Emile Bernard

Today I have worked further on this 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch of winter trees I photographed in St. Louis when we visited during Christmas 2017. I painted them once before, and sold the piece before I was emotionally detached from it. That happens sometimes. For three years, the image has continued to burn on my retina, so I researched the files in my smart phone to find the photo and give it another crack.

Having stripped away the masquing, the snow seems to be showing up OK now. I have just barely begun to place the dead tree branches into the gaps on the left side of the composition. This is going to take considerable time as I’m spending more time enlarging the photo on a flatscreen TV and working on the nuances of the branches (color, thickness, direction of movement, density, and so on). I’m still trying to find the recipe for the neutral coloring of the trunks and branches as well.

Yesterday I struggled with a problem that Cezanne expressed in his writings, namely that the difficulty in painting a cluster of trees was separating out all the shades and tints of green so the painting doesn’t become dull and monotonous. I haven’t solved that problem to my satisfaction, but I think the painting is OK so far. Today I struggle with the Cezanne quote posted above concerning the relationship of literature and visual art. Last month, I had an engaging conversation over dinner in St. Louis with my high school friend Clarry Hubbard, a retired journalist. He expressed how he continually wrestles with visual images as he writes, and I countered with my own struggles, attempting to express visually the literature I read and hear. Soon, I hope I can find a way to write more lucidly about what I am trying to do with brush and paper. In the meantime, I echo Gracie Allen’s sentiments: “My mind is so fast, sometimes I say something before I even think it.”

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Painting through the Darkness

January 8, 2021
Beginning of an 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch of winter evergreens

I promise to love this life I was given and do my best to deserve it.

Garrison Keillor, That Time of Year: A Minnesota Life

For 48 hours, I have been drifting in the darkness of this nation along with everyone else. I choose not to post my perspectives on this event, but still acknowledge a profound pain over events that defy description. Waking before daylight, I found solace this morning in the opening chapters of Garrison Keillor’s recent work, and when I reached the quote above, I had to close the book and just sit in silence for awhile.

Henri Matisse’s life as an artist lived through two World Wars, yet his art never reflected the dark eras of those times. Biographer Hilary Spurling observed “His deepest instinct in the face of erupting violence and destruction was to respond with an affirmation of everything that made life worth living.”

And so I as well have immersed myself the past couple of days in a series of watercolor experiments, recording many observations in an attempt to crank out better work in 2021. In the days ahead, I hope to share some of the insights I’ve recorded along with fresh ideas I’ve gleaned from reading and journaling. Meanwhile, I urge all of my readers to look ahead, to hope, and try at every turn to contribute something of value to our communities.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Socrates Knew that He Didn’t Know

January 3, 2021
Looking Forward to Occupying Studio Eidolons Later Today

Reason indeed demands unity, but Nature demands multiplicity, and both systems of legislation lay claim to man’s obedience.

Friedrich Schiller,, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, Fourth Letter

I recall how flummoxed we all felt sitting in a doctoral seminar years ago when Professor W. D. Davies held up a monograph that all of us had read and deeply admired for its scholarly erudition. The professor said: “The conclusions are so clear and simple that I cannot bring myself to accept them. Nothing is simple.” A few years later, while taking a walk, another dear friend and mentor, Dr. L. Robert Stevens mused: “In a world so complex, I am convinced that it is far easier to be wrong than right.”

Now, reading Schiller’s maxim above, the words of these reflective men re-visit me forty years later. Something in our nature compels us to make sense of our complicated surroundings, and then our simplifications become canonical to us. The reason I am pondering this matter is because I have started out this New Year convinced that if I am to continue to grow in my watercolor pursuits, then I must adopt the perspective of the curious, inquisitive student in the laboratory rather than the seasoned teacher in the classroom. Being now retired, I am happy not to be called upon daily to set forth propositions that I thought were churned out by boards and committees to satisfy testing standards. I found little satisfaction over the years knowing that if I simply put numbers in the spreadsheets for grades by deadline, that I had done my job satisfactorily. Believing that educational quality could not be quantified, I remained bothered that students’ successes would depend on the damned numbers more than thoughtful letters of recommendation.

What is on my mind this morning is this: I will soon be teaching on Watercolor Wednesdays again in Arlington, Texas. And my method will be to line up steps for students to follow as they attempt to paint selected compositions in a three-hour period. I have never had a problem with that. My problem is the suspicion that I am following my own steps, convinced that the pattern is adequate for its particular subject. I don’t want to do that any longer. The next painting I pursue, once I am back in my own studio (today is a travel day–at least six hours on the road before home is reached once again), I intend to tackle a familiar subject but to try and paint it as if it were my first attempt. When I taught phenomenology, I told my students that epoché was the suspension of judgment, one’s willingness to put preconceived notions back on the shelf in order to approach a subject with more openness.

Schiller argued that nature represented multiplicity while our reasoning faculties demanded simplicity. As a teacher, I always understood the necessity of breaking complicated issues down to simpler steps for students to absorb. But I also tried to urge them that the issues were always more complex than the way we presented them. So also in making art–we approach the complexity with simpler steps, but must always admit that more is required if Quality is to be approached. So . . . in the future when I teach, I’ll try to urge my participants to stretch beyond the steps I present, to dare to explore, to stretch, to expand the possibilities.

The story is told that Socrates, when questioned whether or not he was the wisest in the land, answered this way (I paraphrase): I did not consider myself the wisest, so I went about seeking counsel from others considered wiser. When I asked about issues I did not understand, I listened to their answers and soon concluded that they didn’t know either. However, they were convinced that they did in fact know. So, I suppose that alone makes me the wisest in the land; I know that I don’t know, whereas they continue not to know that they don’t know. To know that you don’t know is the beginning of knowledge.

Beginning this New Year, I acknowledge that I know less about making art than I thought I knew in the past. With that mindset, I am ready to explore and learn. I’m excited to find out what can be discovered in the days ahead, and grateful I still have the ability to pursue this passion.

Thanks for reading, and please follow your bliss in this New Year stretched out before you.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Back Home Soon

Hygge

January 3, 2021

Uh…what? Hy-gge. Pronounced hue-gə, which sounds a bit French, this mysterious noun,
adjective and verb resembles not only a typically Danish attitude, but also wellbeing, comfort and feeling at home.

Meik Wiking

What a wonderful start to this New Year! Sandi and I came out to Lubbock just as the winter weather turned frigid, making it difficult for her to spend quality time with her horse. Now the afternoons are sunny, pushing temps up to the fifties and sixties, so she is able to ride. And I am finding life serene in this hotel room with a pair of loving dogs, my art supplies and a fine collection of reading material.

Holiday gifts have continued to accumulate, now including warm greetings and conversations online with a host of friends whom I cannot visit during this wretched COVID era. Someone yesterday alerted me to a book by Meik Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. I have ordered it already on Amazon. Meanwhile, I am reading everything I can pull up online from the pen of this Meik Wiking.

The Danish word hygge reminds me in many ways of the Greek notion of eudaimonia. Both point toward a general spirit of well-being, though hygge sounds to me that it is more oriented to the environment, the stage we set for quality mindfulness. In my case, the word seems to point to my own Studio Eidolons at home, or The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, or the old general store I enjoy inhabiting in east Texas. My initial perceptions of hygge may be inaccurate; I’ll know more once I receive the book and give it a thoughtful read.

Meanwhile, this Sunday morning has been sublime. I stripped off the masquing from the watercolor I started yesterday. It appears I have a decent foundation for this next painting. I have yet to get out my supplies as I’ve decided instead to look over the composition and make some plans for its development. Taking out my draft of New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve decided to make some adjustments to the way I pursue my studio work this year. Having purchased for the first time a watercolor sketchbook last September, I’ve decided to put it to work as I study these snowy evergreens. Alongside the 8 x 10″ watercolor I’ll experiment with some color sketches. I’ve also decided to be more faithful in recording observational notes in the sketchbook, recording the colors and techniques employed. I brought with me on this trip a selection of watercolor pencils to layer with my tube watercolors. I also have some smaller rigger brushes. I’m in the mood for some experimenting.

I am resolved this year to pursue more Quality in day-to-day life. I have not tuned in to local or national news this day, because I suspect that venom is still coursing through the public discourse. To all my readers, I wish you success in creating more hygge in your day-to-day experiences. Hopefully, in addition to adding more color to your own life, you will play a hand in coloring your surroundings.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

The Compulsion to Make Art in the New Year

January 2, 2021

But it is just this technical formulation, which reveals the truth to our understanding, that conceals it once again from our feeling; for unfortunately the understanding must first destroy the objects of the inner sense before it can appropriate them. Like the chemist, the philosopher finds combination only through dissolution, and the work of spontaneous Nature only through the torture of Art. In order to seize the fleeting appearance he must bind it in the fetters of rule, dissect its fair body into abstract notions, and preserve its living spirit in a sorry skeleton of words.

Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man

Beginning of a snowy evergreen composition

Day two of our new year finds me in a hotel room attempting an 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch of snowy evergreens. I completed a composition similar to this a few Christmas seasons ago in a hotel after I had photographed a stand of trees at the edge of the snow-covered parking lot visible outside my window. This morning I felt the compulsion to repeat the endeavor. Sometimes I do grieve when a watercolor sells so fast that I didn’t have time to look at it and absorb it. The painting above went out the gallery door pretty quickly.

I’m trying to re-read some texts that I enjoyed last Christmas season concerning aesthetics. As I’ve told friends repeatedly, I worked on my skills as an artist for years but focused exclusively on the technical aspects of painting. After a few decades of teaching art history and repeated readings of Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit, I have developed a fascination with the topic of aesthetics, and have thoroughly enjoyed the letters of Friedrich Schiller written to a friend around 1795. For the immediate future, I will attempt to steer a careful course between the technical and the philosophical aspects of making art and see where the conversation takes me.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.